By Tessa Afshar
In a recent interview, Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner, who has sold over 38 million books, wrote: The temptation to give up, to surrender, is very, very strong. And you have to have faith in the work that you’re doing. You have to have faith that as dark and unlikely and as dreary as things may seem, that it’s worth pursuing.
Most writers need to contend with the temptation to give up. I have three published books, with a contract for the fourth. Recently, we celebrated the launch of my third book, Harvest of Gold, in the Mark Twain House and Museum. I was the first inspirational writer they sponsored. The event marked the largest turnout of any author event they had promoted in their home venue. Their bookstore sold out of my books and they included me in the list of their summer reading brochure. And yet, I came home that evening wondering if I should surrender. Give up already.
Because writing is hard. It means constant sacrifice. Even giants like Hosseini get to the point of wanting to throw in the towel on a certain project. So how do you resist that temptation? How do you hold on to a work that has potential, or even to the dream of writing itself?
While I don’t have a remedy for discouragement, I have several sources of strength to which I turn when discouragement descends.
First, for me, writing is not a hobby. It’s not even a job. It is a call. I believe I was created to do this. The Bible says that God created us in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10). I believe, in my life, part of that work is writing. So what shall I say when things become hard or seem untenable? Shall I walk away from God’s purpose? Shall I ditch my destiny just because it’s hard?
Second, I have writing partners whose opinion I trust. If they felt I was wasting my time over a certain project, they would tell me. Just as they wouldn’t let me walk out the door with toilet paper stuck to my skirt, they wouldn’t let me work on a book that had nothing to offer.
Writing makes me myopic. I can’t tell good from bad in my own work when I am too close to it. I tend to have a negative perception of my writing. It’s easy for me to think doom and gloom about my work. So I trust my critique partners to help me discern whether my perceptions of failure are accurate.
Third, I take a break. If I am under a deadline, that break might be for a few hours. If I have the luxury of time, I step away for a week in order to gain a fresh perspective.
Most of us struggle with some degree of discouragement. You don’t win victory by never having such feelings, but by resisting them. By overcoming and fulfilling your destiny.
Tessa Afshar was voted “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011 for her novel, Pearl in the Sand. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was nominated for the 2013 ECPA Book Award (formerly known as the Gold Medalion) in the fiction category and won the Grace Award for best Women’s Fiction in the same year. World Magazine chose Harvest of Rubies as one of four notable books of the year. Tessa was born in Iran to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has spent the last fourteen years in full-time Christian service in New England.